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Maybe it’s unfair to compare the title fight between Nonito Donaire vs Toshiaki Nishioka to the non-title fight between Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado, but no one ever said life is fair.
After the fireworks provided by Rios and Alvarado in the opening bout on HBO Boxing After Dark, Donaire-Nishioka by comparison was dull. It wasn’t that Donaire (30-1, 19 KOs) failed to do what he needed to do at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, which was to win and win decisively. It was that Nishioka fought most of the fight in survivor mode and in so doing stank up the joint.
The few times Nishioka let his hands go, which increased as the fight progressed, he got pummeled in return. He was first dropped in the sixth round, and finally at 1:54 of round nine, at which time his corner threw on the towel and the referee waved off the fight.
At the fight’s conclusion Donaire said, “Nishioka was a great fighter and we were weary, but if he made the mistake, we could get him—and we did.
“My left hand was hurt in the middle of the fight and I needed a different strategy, and I got him with the right.
“This is my biggest win. I’ve never beaten anyone like this. He has a lot of weapons.”
It’s hard to know what to make of Donaire. He might be his own worst enemy. He may have raised the bar too high too early in his career. He created expectations—that every fight would be dynamic—that every fight would end in an explosive knockout—expectations that are not and perhaps cannot be met.
Donaire isn’t slipping per se. It may simply be that he hasn’t brought his power with him as he has moved up in weight. But it’s also possible that he has ceased growing as a fighter. As his celebrity expands and his bank account swells and opportunities to star in movies increase, the old hunger, one of the best motivators there is, gets sated.
Although Donaire-Nishioka looked good on paper—Nishioka hadn’t lost a fight in eight years—it did not look good in the ring. It could be because it followed the Fight of the Year, and if that’s the case, Nonito’s opponent Saturday night was Rios-Alvarado and not Toshiaki Nishioka.